Once known as the Islands of the Moon, this group of four islands in the Indian Ocean is more rustic and less visited than the Seychelles—but just as beautiful. There are fields of cloves and vanilla beans; swift-running streams cascading down mountainsides to long, sandy beaches; and mazelike Muslim villages with mosques and bustling markets.

But there is unrest in paradise. The population is very poor, and there are unresolved questions of national identity, including a number of political coups. Two of the islands were in political limbo for a time, having declared independence from the Republic of Comoros, but eventually returned to the union. A fourth (Mayotte) remains under French administration. The largest island, Grande Comore, is an active volcano that may or may not soon erupt.

Thus far, the political unrest hasn't directly affected travelers, other than increasing the likelihood of encountering red tape. The situation is calm, but the potential for outbreaks of civil disorder in urban areas remains high.

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